Police in the central Indian district of Gadchiroli killed at least 15 members of a Maoist terror group on Friday in “a fierce gun battle,” the Hindustan Times reported.
“At least 15 members of the CPI [Communist Party of India] (Maoist) were killed in the encounter in the jungle,” Sandip Patil, Gadchiroli Deputy Inspector General of Police, Sandip Patil, told reporters at a press conference on May 21.
“We kicked off the operation early morning after learning about Maoist presence in the forest [sic]. So far, 13 bodies have been recovered from the site. Searches are still on,” Patil said.
The encounter took place “in a forest area between Potegaon and Rajoli in south Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra [state] on Friday morning,” according to the Hindustan Times.
India’s Maoists, also known as Naxalites, have waged a violent insurgency against Indian state security forces since at least 2004. The terrorists trace their roots to Indian communist politics in the late 1960s. They claim to invoke and perpetrate violence against the Indian state as a means of championing the cause of India’s poor.
At least seven of the 15 militants killed by Gadchiroli police during Friday’s anti-Naxalite operation in Maharashtra were women, according to the Indian Express.
“The encounter ensued when the elite C60 commando parties were combing and searching the forest, 15 km north of Kotmi. It started around 6:30 am when the Naxals, who were probably on the move in a group of about 60 to 70, started firing from the hilltop. Four C60 commando parties, comprising over 100 men, retaliated, killing 13 Naxals,” Gadchiroli Additional Superintendent of Police Manish Kalwania told reporters on May 21.
The military operation lasted for roughly 90 minutes and was the “second biggest success” Gadchiroli’s C60 commando units have recorded since they killed 41 Maoists in Gadchiroli district along a border between Boria and Kasnasur villages in April 2018, Kalwania said.
Gadchiroli’s C60 commando units “are the only district-level force in the country formed out of [an] indigenous tribal population,” the Times of India reported in 2018.
“They are well-acquainted with the local terrain and also speak local language[s]. This gives them an upper hand over the Maoist formations of Gadchiroli” which are also comprised of local tribes, according to the newspaper.
Hundreds of Naxalites ambushed and killed 23 Indian security personnel and injured at least 33 more in Chattisgarh in early April. Chattisgarh is an Indian state bordering Maharashtra and located roughly 175 miles northeast of Gadchiroli.